Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday Musings, 18 January 2014

Good morning,

I shocked my son yesterday. He learned that I had a secret stash of vinyl. True enough, my little horde heavily favors folk and classical, but in its midst he found three vintage Grateful Dead albums, one of which I agreed to let him give a friend as a going away present. I had no trouble parting with Skeletons from a Closet. The memories remain.

Mother in the breakfast room -- so named because the house also had a dining room, once, before the infinity Corleys (turn an 8 sideways) outgrew the little home -- balancing her checkbook. Kevin, Mark and I, in the living room, lounging on the wall-to-wall carpet (not wall-to-wall-to-wall, mind) listening to Workingman's Dead on our S&H Greenstamps stereo in its low-lying cabinet with sleek walnut veneer table-top. Mother standing in the doorway, admonishing us to "turn that down or find something useful to do". The three of us scattering, me to my endless books on ballerinas, the boys to their downstairs bedroom with its unswept concrete floors and cold, uninsulated walls. Fall of 1970. I was fifteen. Snow had not yet fallen. My father had not yet come back from his year in hiding. Music filled our home.

I turned the pages of a well-read biography of famous dancers. In my mind, I grew four inches and the muscles in my legs tightened. My feet developed the ability to raise on pointe. I wrenched myself from the grips of awkwardness that no one blamed on adolescence. The lights raised. I stood, poised, waiting for the curtains to rise.

I had grand illusions.

My mother steered me from the dance classes that I started begging to take as early as first grade. She enrolled me in Junior Achievement, volunteer tutoring programs, and Great Books Club. I learned to twist wires to make a trouble light, guide adults to the knowledge required for a GED, and missed class parties to sit in an empty classroom with five or six other geeky kids talking about Dickens.

But I never abandoned hope. Isadora Duncan beckoned from the frothy sheers stage-right. I yearned to take her hand and cross the boards, stretching to touch the fingers of the next partner whose arms would lift me and carry me to glory. Oddly, we danced not to Swan Lake but to the strains of Attics of My Life. The audience sat rapt, nonetheless, in my endless reveries. And in the front row, with the most devoted looks of all, sat my mother's dishwashers, Ann, Adrienne, Joyce, Kevin, Mark, Francis and Stephen, watching their clumsy shrimp of a sister soar.

Just before my son left last night, I found my handed-down copy of Wake of the Flood. I ran out onto the porch and waylaid Patrick's Kia. I showed him my discovery, dusty and possibly scratched, but probably rare and collectible. "I saw that," he said. "But I think I'll keep that one." He waved and pulled out of the driveway. I watched his tail lights until they disappeared in the distance. From a block away, he could have been any Corley boy, on any night, in any decade, and in the chilly air on the stone covered porch, I could have been any mother of a Corley son, going back inside, and turning on the porch light.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.